Fandom: Assassin's Creed.
Prompt: For classics_lover on comment_fic for the prompt How does Altair deal with the wintry conditions Ezio experiences. Answer : hammams.
It was a cold winter. Malik made his normal rounds at considerably less-than-normal speed, bent nearly double by the force of the wind. The weather gave his temper a vicious edge as he stalked the ramparts, putting the fear of God, or at least the fear of Malik, into any Assassin guard who thought that the harsh weather merited a lapse in concentration.
You think that is standing guard? A novice would show more skill. I could stand watch better than that myself, and I have one hand!
Do you think the Templars will not attack because it is cold? They come from the north! From a land that is locked in perpetual winter! They are used to the cold! Now, stand guard another hour, and then you shall learn what cold is!
Do I need anything? I need what only you can provide; your absence. Go back to your post.
They'd been rotating the gate guards on two hourly watches, but eventually even Malik was forced to admit that that was not enough. He changed the watch to hourly shifts and did what he should have done much earlier. Abbas was not pleased by Malik delegating the watch command to him, but then Abbas never was.
Malik fought the fierce wind all the way to Al Mualim's garden. His arm ached. He rubbed at the stump of his left arm with his right hand, a habit that usually eased the pain. The massage failed to work, but then again, his hand was even colder than the rest of him.
He opened a door in the corner of the garden and slipped through, emerging in a small stone antechamber barely warmer than the garden outside. He went through into a smaller room, slightly warmer, and a third which was warmer still, shedding layers as he went. He didn't meet anyone. He didn't particularly want to meet anyone.
The fourth room was warm enough to raise a sweat. Malik laid his weapons on a low marble bench and stripped efficiently, taking a towel from a small pile on the bench. A hanging carpet served as a doorway. Malik ducked under the carpet into a fog of warm muggy steam. He immediately felt his muscles began to relax.
Masyaf had a communal hammam, but this one was much smaller, a legacy of Al Mualim's rule. The Old Man had preached asceticism, it was true, but he had allowed himself certain pleasures. Malik was much less likely to be disturbed.
He knelt beneath a thin stream of lukewarm water that trickled from the wall and scrubbed himself until the freezing garden and the ignorant novices were little more than an unpleasant memory. Once he was clean he ran his hand through his hair, took his towel and ducked under a low door into the steam room.
Altaïr was sprawled upon a bench. The Grand Master of the Masyaf Assassins looked like he was sleeping, but Malik could tell from the twitch of one eyelid that Altaïr was wide awake. He nearly turned around and walked back out into the cold. He had come to the hammam to escape from his work. The last thing he needed was Altaïr.
He cleared his throat. "It has occurred to me before that hammams are a perfect location for assassination."
"You would not get five paces," Altaïr said without opening his eyes."Close the door."
"Six," said Malik. "I had not expected to find you here." It was very late. He had not expected to find anyone here.
"If nothing is true and everything is permitted, it is permitted for me to share the baths. Now close the door."
Malik closed the door. "Of course, Grand Master."
"It would sound better if you meant it," Altaïr said drowsily.
"Altaïr, I have read that the great emperor of Rūm had a slave who rode behind him whispering to him that he was still mortal. Even one who flies must come down to earth eventually."
"What makes you think I need reminding? I feel a hundred years old, Malik. I preferred fighting."
If Altaïr felt a hundred years old then Malik felt a thousand. He stared up at the stars painted on the arched ceiling. "Say what you want about Al Mualim," he said, "but his baths are very welcome."
Altaïr slitted open one eye and glared at him. "Agreed. How goes your work."
Malik relaxed back against the warm bricks. "Slowly. I have managed to source another copy of al-Idrisi's Book of Pleasant Journeys into Faraway Lands, but I have found no mention of any Eden fragments."
"Correct me if I am wrong, but have any of your journeys into foreign lands been particularly pleasant?"
Malik had to admit that most of them had not. "They have been valuable, which is much the same. Informative. Interesting, even. It is useful to broaden horizons. And despite what some may think, the Holy Land is not the centre of the world. And it is not that holy. How can something which has had so much blood spilt over it be holy?"
"You are asking the wrong man," Altair said.
The stars dimmed as Malik thought of the way the Eden fragment had broadened his horizons. "There are other worlds than these. So many." He realized that his voice was trailing into sleep and shook his head, voice sharpening as another thought occurred to him. "Altaïr, maybe there are other Assassins."
"Maybe they are warmer," said Altaïr. "Malik, I have more than enough to do here. Every day there is a different problem. For example, your female recruits came to me today. The women refuse to share the communal baths. They demand their own."
"I can understand that," Malik said as his muscles unknotted one by one. "But, Altaïr, there is no room to build new baths. There is no room for the people we have here. Maybe in summer, but not now."
"I am sure that you can arrange it."
"I am sure that I will have to." Malik said.
Altaïr stifled a yawn. "I would suggest that you enjoy these baths while you have the chance. If this weather continues, we will soon have to douse the hammam fires and save our wood for heat. We're running out of things to burn."
"We have a large supply of useless novices," said Malik. "We could burn them."